Coachella Festival Day Two: I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar

- April 15, 2012

"...the boldest musical statements were made by female-fronted bands"

The second in a three part series; read part one, part three.

Day two of the 2012 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival wrapped up Saturday, highlighted by a memorable double-encore set by Radiohead, the melodic mewlings of Bon Iver and the sonic pulsations of David Guetta (plus a cameo by Usher (squeal!)).

However, in one reporter's eyes, the boldest musical statements were made by female-fronted bands. Tune-Yards (or tUnE-yArDs, if you want to be particular) performed its rhythm-heavy, island-tinged art rock to an enraptured audience on the Outdoor Stage. Using foot pedals to loop and layer her own drums, ukelele and voice, band leader Merrill Garbus (pictured above) led a small trio (bass, two saxophones) in an impassioned and equally loud showcase of songs like “Bizness” and “Gangsta.” A delighted Garbus made a comment that the audience may have been the largest the band had ever performed to.

St. Vincent mesmerized tens of thousands of spectators performing songs from its most recent album “Strange Mercy.” The group's tender and seemingly slightly detached leader Annie Erin Clark executed a flawless set, highlighted by her virtuosic guitar playing. “She's my new hero,” my wife yelled into my ear during the performance. St. Vincent performed a new song – “it's not even on the Internet,” she said – “Crocodile,” in which the tiny Clark lept from the stage and began writhing, contorting and singing violently while in a sea of her fans' arms. It was both a thrilling and slightly disturbing three minutes, and one that left the audience forever converted to the music of St. Vincent.

From the distance, I could see that Grace Potter and the Nocturnals had a large audience rocking to their high energy Southern rock. Feist performed too, to but I missed that show.

Other quick highlights from day two included the following:

The Shins – except for Mercer, I don't recognize in the band now, which is annoying, but whatevs, they sounded good, and the female guitarist is great and hella cute).

FIREHOSE – Mike Watt is one of my favorite bassists.

Squeeze – I just might be this band's biggest fan. I knew every word to every song. Also, they weren't too cool to play both “Cool for Cats” and “Tempted.”

Azealia Banks – Keep an eye out for this one. She performed only 30 minutes of music, similar to Sleigh Bells a couple years ago, which suggests she may not have much material. A rising star, to be sure.

Destroyer – Bohemian smooth jazz at its finest.

Flying Lotus – It was like being inside of an Adult Swim button for 30 minutes straight – that's a compliment.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Sheets of instrumental sound, nine or ten piece band sitting in a circle, very creepy. Unforgettable.

While many acts made day two of Coachella memorable, what stuck with me most is something Tune-Yards' Garbus noted while on stage. “I want everybody to close their eyes and imagine themselves in a beautiful place, where the skies are blue, the weather is perfect and palm trees surround you,” she saud. “Now open your eyes. Here we are.”

Sunday boasts the strongest lineup yet.

Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, At the Drive-In, Justice, Florence and the Machine, AVICII, La Roux, Beirut, The Weeknd, Girl Talk, The Hives, DJ Shadow, Calvin Harris, Nero, Wild Flag, Modeselektor, Dada Life, Porter Robinson, Santigold, Flux Pavilion, Dr. P, Gotye, Seun Keti, Egypt 80, Beats Antique, Fitz and the Tantrums, Araabmuzik, Company Flow, Real Estate, Zed, Le Bucherettes, Greg Ginn, The Growlers, Noisia, Morgan Page, Gaslamp Killer, First Aid Kit, Oberhofer, Lissie, Thundercat, Metronomy, Wild Beasts, Housse de Racket, Fanfarlo, Spector, Gardens & Villa, Airplane Boys, Sleeper Agent